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3 Kings Magi Star of Bethlehem

Secrets of the Christmas Star 
Real astronomers talk about the Star of Bethlehem

What was the Star of Bethlehem?

Was it a planetary conjunction, a supernova outburst, a comet, or a Sign from God?

In this short and fascinating audio series, Astronomer Bill will take you on a scientific adventure of Biblical Proportions.

Christmas Star Episode 1
The first step in solving the mystery.

Christmas Star Episode 2
Was the Star of Bethlehem a meteor or a comet? Astronomer Bill finally lays some theories to rest.

Christmas Star Episode 3
Was the Star of Bethlehem an exploding star -- a nova or supernova outburst?

Christmas Star Episode 4
Was the Star of Bethlehem a planetary conjunction?

Christmas Star Episode 5
What the 3 Wise Men most likely saw in the evening sky on the night of Jesus' birth.

Episode 3:
Was the Star of Bethlehem an Exploding Star?
5 minutes total running time

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Was the Star of Bethlehem an Exploding Star?

Perhaps the simplest answer is a nova or supernova outburst: a new star blazes forth where none had ever been seen and leaves no trace for us to find in the future.

Although their names imply a new creation, these spectacular objects are in reality dying stars, although they are new (albeit temporary) additions to the nighttime sky. The appearance of a nova is unpredictable a really bright one becomes visible perhaps once every 25 or 30 years.

Going on this assumption, we actually should be due for a bright naked-eye nova at almost anytime now, since the most recent one appeared back in 1975 (not far from the bright star Deneb in the constellation Cygnus).

Most bright novae suddenly and unexpectedly flare into prominence literally overnight, attracting the instant attention of sky-conscious people. But after several days or weeks of such prominence, it gradually fades back to obscurity. Even more spectacular but much rarer are supernovae; stars that suddenly blow themselves completely apart, briefly producing an incredible energy output equivalent to the combined light of an entire galaxy of stars.

At the height of its outburst, a supernova can shine with a brilliance capable of casting shadows and can even be seen in broad daylight truly a celestial announcement worthy of the birth of a king.

In our Milky Way galaxy, over the past thousand years, there have been four brilliant supernovae, in 1006, 1054, 1572 and 1604. Clearly, we are long overdue for another, though the stars don't necessarily play by any odds we might calculate.

A recent hypothesis states that the star of Bethlehem was a supernova or hypernova occurring in the nearby Andromeda Galaxy. Although supernovae have been detected in Andromeda, it is extremely difficult to detect a supernova remnant in another galaxy, let alone obtain an accurate date of when it occurred.

Although a nova or supernova is the most satisfying explanation for the Star, there is a serious problem with it, in that there doesn’t seem to be any definitive record of a bright nova appearing in the sky during the time that biblical historians believe the Magi made their journey.

One nova apparently did appear, bordering the constellations Capricornus and Aquarius during the spring of 5 BC. But the Chinese records, which describe this object, imply that it was apparently not very conspicuous at all.

Windowpane Observatory

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Christmas Star of Bethlehem

Windowpane Observatory
Ajo, Arizona, USA